back to article Dell pays $4m to settle NY 'deceptive practices' claim

Dell will cough up $4m to the New York Attorney General's Office to resolve charges of "fraudulent and deceptive business practices" related to its finance and service promotions. The deal follows the New York Supreme Court's backing of the NY Attorney General's claims that "Dell had engaged in fraud, false advertising, …

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bex

in the UK too

Dell do the same thing in the UK also. Its a bit rich after paying hundreds of Pounds for a service contract to be expected to take your PC to bits and jiggle parts before they will send out a technician.

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You can imagine the outcry with the conversations:

* Hi, yes, this is your car garage. Engine not working you say.. Right, take the engine out, place it on a bench and remove the following parts, put it back in and see if it starts now..

* Welcome to the Surgical division. Take a scalpel, inject yourself with this anaestheic, and make incisions and make a cut in your lower left side. Take out the bid dangling from the long tubelike squishy thing, and sew up the hole left..

It's not expected that you have any hands on with anything else covered by warranty, so WHY do PC support companies expect people to take the lid off a PC (invalidating warranty in the process) and tinker with the innards? Most users take out the warranty so they don't have to waste time and stress doing just that..

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WTF?

It should be obvious

" Nevertheless, it would have been interesting to see exactly where the Supreme Court came down on the issue of whether PC buyers should be expected to check cable connections and reseat memory cards themselves. "

In the UK it should be obvious which side to come down on as you don't ring any customer support of any other electrical product and they tell you to take it apart. End customers are not even allowed to re-wire a plug these days - they are moulded to stop us doing so. I can just imagine what the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) would make of customer support suggesting that you open your hoover to fiddle with the electrics inside.

Is America different? Do customer support lines really ask people to take apart and mess with the electrics of their giant fridges?

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@bex

Yes, but it's not hard to simply make a cup of tea instead (of following instructions to open PC, jiggle and switch on) and then say "nope, still doesn't work".

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Boffin

@ all

I'm surprised at the responses here. Ok, sure, maybe Auntie May is going to be a little distraught when asked to find a screwdriver and start opening up her shiny Dell but for the majority of users I think this is the preferable outcome.

1) Spend 5 minutes removing the back cover to the RAM, check the clips, remove and re-insert, check all the cables are connected and after this time and the phone call you're back up and running.

2) Wait for an engineer to call the next day, during which time you're out of action. Take a day off work to be there when they call. Let them into the house (after checking ID and making sure they're a scam artist come to rob you). A cup of tea and 10 minutes later and your video cable is reattached and they're back in their van and heading off. You've also just pushed the price of warranty up for every person buying a PC because of the time wasted.

I think it makes perfect sense to go through a few common, fairly basic, steps to resolve the problem first.

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Paris Hilton

There's a line

It's perfectly reasonable to ask a customer to check it's plugged in. If my hoover was totally dead, it'd be reasonable to ask me to check it was plugged in to a known-working socket and turned on. Same with a PC, but now there are slightly more cables to check.

It's not reasonable to ask a consumer to open the case.

Maybe you could get away with asking "we can send out a tech tomorrow, but would you like to open the case and maybe we can fix it now?"; that gives the consumer the choice.

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ADSL is different

On the other hand, report a fault on your phone line, and they ask you to disconnect all the ADSL stuff before they do a line test. You'd think their testing options could cope with that, after all these years of selling the idea.

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Anonymous Coward

My experience

My OH bought a Dell because she liked the idea of a warranty. A few months later the hard-disk failed big time, the control board failed.

Phoning up Dell, they offered the choice of either a) wait a few weeks and they'd send a tech round or b) they could courier a new drive the next day if we fitted it ourselves. However, either option meant they would take away the busted drive.

I asked if I could spike the old drive with a nail first, in the name of data protection. They said that if I did that, they'd have to charge me for the drive!

Sure, I could have swapped control boards but that would have left us with an unreliable drive. The point of warranty is to revert you to where you should be in a timely fashion. Their approach reverts you to a position where they have a hard-disk full of potentially recoverable data.

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Linux

It does happen over here.

Called BT regarding issue with my phone line.

First thing they asked before agreeing to send out a tech is that I remove the plate off the outlet on the wall and verify all wires are connected and mess with it. I refused stating that if the issue is with my phone or other hardware I would pay a charge but if it is the outlet or the cable coming into the house I would not. Had to fight until I had spoken to three different people but got a tech out who fixed the issue. Appearently they forgot to connect me at the box out on the street.

If I pay for warranty that states as Dell does next day technician on site why would I attempt to fix the issue myself. I am not going to buy a new car and play with the engine if it is not working correctly before going to a garage. That is why I spent the money on a warranty.

All extra warranties are just another way for people to waste money by getting a product that the company supplying does not want to give out. Sort of the same scam you have with insurance.

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Grenade

Colour blindness in the workplace

I once kept an overseas Dell support bod on the phone for 20 mins while he asked me if the light at the back was "being yellow" and I kept telling him as far as I was concerned it was being amber.

And we did once have what looked like a 15yo come out with a replacement laptop drive and tell us IT dept bods that it could be difficult to change the drive if you'd never done it before. We had to restrain the IT Manager from taking a swipe at the little oik.

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Badgers

not acceptable

"Is it plugged in?" and "Is it switched on?" are things consumers can reasonably be asked to check.

Anything further and you're risking increasing the problems for the engineer.

"Oops dropped the screwdriver and now it's sparking, you never said I had to turn it off first, oh now there's flames"

"Is it meant to make that snapping noise and for this bit to come off in my hand"

If your warranty says an enduser should report issues and you will then send an engineer out to fix them then that is what should happen. Otherwise you end up with a lawsuit which is what happened.

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@fireman sam

Couldn't agree more, or are el reg readers no longer able to perform basic troubleshooting?

Personally I troubleshoot first, then I log a call _IF_ necessary -- which is very rarely is.

I've had the same PC for 6 years, it had "failed" several times over the years.

Each time I fiddled to make it magically work again. Sometimes things were indeed broken.

I recently had to call up Siemens tech support for my dishwaster, and this invovles pulling it apart - which I did and was happy to do as otherwise I'd have a shit load of dishes to wash by hand. It took a half-hour onto their support, but guess what, it would have taken a LOT longer to wsh them by hand. Same goes for PC's.

Seriously people.

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Silver badge

Bah!

[4 fireman sam] Oh sam, you don't really believe a warranty works the same way your car insurance does, do you? That Dell assess the risk and price the service accordingly based on customer calls?

For starters, Dell doesn't provide the "onsite" service in metropolitan New York, Unisys does (or did, last time I used them). Dell's prices will be dictated by Unisys's bid, plus whatever markup Dell decided was reasonable (and their definition of "reasonable" would almost certainly differ radically from yours).

They also will sell you a service that specifically features *in-home* repair (and for which they charge more than their "carry-into-a-service-center-yourself" service contract), then tell you , when you inevitably wish to actually use the service for which you've paid, that you live outside the technician's service area (defined, as far as I can make out, by where said technician lives) and that you'll just have to carry the device into a service center anyway. They will if you live where I live, anyway, which is in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.

Now I don't know about you, but this pretty much defines a canonical definition of the phrase "fraudulent practice" in my lexicon, and I have absolutely no problem in this instance with the A.G. using an issue that needs fixing as a springboard to the Sate Governor's mansion.

Not withstanding that for "most users" (your phrasing), laying hands on a screwdriver capable of undoing the screws without chewing them up (probably voiding the warranty you hold so dear) is no trivial matter. I have several sets of them, but Auntie May, if she possesses a screwdriver at all, is probably only going to have the ubiquitous slot type or a Phillips #2 if you're lucky. With which of these do you suggest she start dismantling her laptop?

Asking the customer to reseat the plug and power cable is a reasonable over-the-phone request. Undoing *any* fasteners and opening the case isn't.

Sorry, sam. I tag you with a big red "fail" sticker.

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Alert

@Jamie 19

This is the reason why the current BT master phone sockets include a "service jack". Under the front plate is an internal phone plug attached to the plate and socket attached to the base All extension wiring is attached to the front plate. By removing the front plate from the master socket, you are removing all extension cabling and other devices in the house, and leave the circuit with a single phone outlet that BT can be reasonably certain is not compromised by customer supplied wiring (it's actually a against your contract to mess with the wires on the BT side of the master socket).

It's not difficult and is perfectly safe provided that nobody has wired mains into your house telephone wiring. Ring signal voltage is only about 50V at limited current, so even in extreme cases should not cause even people with heart conditions a problem.

I think that it is also in your contract with BT that they may ask you to do this.

I know many people regard PC's as appliances, but in reality they are not, and there should be no 230V mains outside of the power supply, so there are no real safety concerns about taking the side panel off of a computer. Of course, some manufacturers actually dissuade you from taking the covers off by putting tamper stickers on the case (personal experience with the now defunct Time, Fujitsu-Siemens and even an eMachine [bought from MorganComputers, not PC World I hasten to add]). This causes different concerns about allowing people to upgrade their systems.

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Guarantee's

My SO's Acer has lots of stickers saying the guarantee will be void if I open the case. So I haven't opened the case, even though I am quite capable of fixing most internal issues that come up. If you are told to break the seal by the telephone support, have you broken the guarantee?

It's never gone wrong though. Except that pile'o'shite that is Vista of course and it's dire wireless connectivity.

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I agree with the decision ...

Here is why.

I've had two people who paid a lot of money for Dells best warranty onsite warranty coverage ... who found it so frustrating, time consuming and difficult to obtain such service that they gave up and just paid me to diagnose and fix their computer.

I rather got the impression that they'd rather poke their own eyes out then deal with Dells tech support.

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Just the Texas style of business

This is just a Texas style way of doing business. Who's surprised by this?

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Easy for IT geeks to say...

I've never had a technician fix any of my PC's as I've been around computers since the age of 8. However, I have one friend in his late 40's who wanted to get online despite the fact that he did not know how to double-click the mouse button. His mother was terribly upset when her rotary dial telephone was replaced by a push button model. Why? It reminded her of the bank's ATM which she simply does not understand.

Neither of these people are stupid - she is a retired English teacher and he is a motorcycle mechanic who has read more books than I've had breakfasts. Tech savvy people find it hard to see just how big the gap can be between the "knows" and the "know-nots". You simply can't assume people will feel comfortable doing anything more than checking that the PC is plugged in.

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